Left Menu
Development News Edition

UPDATE 1-U.S. support for Israeli settlements renews focus on core issue in Mideast conflict

Reuters | Jerusalem | Updated: 19-11-2019 20:53 IST | Created: 19-11-2019 20:14 IST
UPDATE 1-U.S. support for Israeli settlements renews focus on core issue in Mideast conflict
Image Credit: Pixabay

Israel's ruling right-wing government on Tuesday moved swiftly to embrace Washington's backing for Israeli settlements, even as Palestinians and Arab leaders said it was a threat to the international rule of law. Monday's announcement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo abandoned the position that settlements in Israeli-occupied territory were "inconsistent with international law", reversing a position taken by the United States under President Jimmy Carter in 1978.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lost no time in making political capital out of the announcement, as he struggles to remain in power following two inconclusive Israeli elections and possible criminal prosecution over corruption charges, which he denies. "I admit that I am very moved," Netanyahu said as he visited the Etzion bloc of settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

"The Trump administration has corrected a historic injustice," Netanyahu said. "This is a very great day for the State of Israel and an achievement that will stand for generations." Some Israeli analysts said the announcement had a little practical effect - with settlement building already in evidence under a Netanyahu government, as it had been since the area was captured from Jordan in the 1967 war.

In Geneva, the U.N. human rights office said the settlements remain in breach of international law, echoing a position taken by the International Court of Justice in an advisory opinion in 2004. Israel disputes this, and Netanyahu has cited historical and biblical links to the West Bank in supporting Jewish settlement.

Palestinians say settlements jeopardize their goal of a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with East Jerusalem as its capital. "HOLD BACK"

Although President Donald Trump told Netanyahu in early 2017 that he would "like to see you hold back on settlement for a little bit", the intervening period has seen repeated postponement of the White House's "Deal of the Century" peace plan. Trump has also made a succession of pro-Israeli initiatives.

These include U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital in 2017, moving the U.S. embassy to the city in 2018 and cuts in U.S. aid to Palestinians. In March, Trump recognised Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights, captured from Syria in 1967. Hagit Ofran, Settlements Watch Director of the left-wing Israeli group Peace Now, said there were 430,000 settlers in the West Bank and 200,000 in East Jerusalem, living in 132 settlements and 121 unofficial settlement outposts. About 3 million Palestinians live throughout the West Bank.

"If you want to know what the Deal of the Century plan was, we know what it is now," said Ofran after Pompeo's announcement. "It is to say to the Palestinians 'you are not going to get any of your basic demands and rights'." INTERNATIONAL LAW

The speed and consistency of the response by Palestinian officials suggested they are familiar with headline-grabbing Trump initiatives and have decided to frame them in a wider context. "The bias of the Trump administration towards the most extreme in Israel blinds it from seeing the basic principles of international law and consensus," said Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh on Twitter.

Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Mansour said he was consulting other nations at the Security Council to "lobby a unified international position to confront the American illegal announcement regarding settlements". Diana Buttu, a former legal adviser to the Palestine Liberation Organization, said the U.S. decision had been decades in the making.

"Each U.S. administration, since Reagan, has pandered to Israel on settlements," she told Reuters. "I get the sense from the Palestinian leadership's responses that they believe this issue has to be framed as not just about 'us' but about the world order that people believe in... when you go down this path it isn't just about Palestine, this affects Crimea and other places around the world."

FACTS ON THE GROUND David Friedman, the Trump-appointed U.S. Ambassador to Israel, said on Twitter that Pompeo's announcement would "advance the cause of peace" by creating a "level playing field" for future talks.

To many Israeli settlers, the U.S. move simply recognized the status of settlements they regard as permanent. "From the sea to the Jordan River, it belongs to the people of Israel," said Zomi Osi, a settler speaking near the new settlement neighborhood Ramat Givat Zeev, which is expanding along a valley in the West Bank.

But yards away in Beit Ijza, overlooking Ramat Givat Zeev and an Israeli highway built through the West Bank retired Palestinian villager Mahmoud Salem said nothing could change the fact that the land was Palestinian. "He (Trump) doesn't own it, he has no right to give it to anybody and he can't force its owners to leave it," he said.

GAZA AND ARAB WORLD In Gaza, where Israeli withdrew soldiers and settlers in 2005, Palestinian student Fatima Attallaa stood outside a building that was once part of the Israeli settlement Neve Dekalim, saying she looked forward to the day when the West Bank was also free of settlers.

"The American decision is void," she said. "Settlements will be removed. We are at a university that was once a settlement and today it is Al-Aqsa University." Wider Arab and Muslim reaction was equally condemnatory.

Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said such an "unfortunate change" in the American position would not bring Israel security, peace or normal relations with Arab countries. Egyptian state news agency MENA quoted him as saying it would "push the legions of Israeli settlers to practice more violence and brutality against the Palestinian population." Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Twitter: "No country is above international law" and "fait accompli style declarations" had no validity.

Jordan's foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, said a U.S. change of position on settlements would have "dangerous consequences". Calling the settlements illegal, he said they killed prospects for a Palestinian state existing side-by-side with Israel. But in U.S.-allied Saudi Arabia, the state news agency did not mention the issue after a cabinet meeting, focusing on criticism of Israeli air raids in Gaza. (Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Ali Sawafta in Beit Ijza, Yousef Saba in Cairo, Suleiman al-Khalidi in Amman, Jonathan Spicer in Istanbul, Dahlia Nehme in Dubai Editing by Giles Elgood)


TRENDING

OPINION / BLOG / INTERVIEW

South Africa's COVID-19 response: Surprising outcomes or just poor data management?

South Africa has been committed to improving its health information system and shows that a robust digital has considerable scope to improve healthcare for the entire population. But the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted that significant ga...

Post-COVID-19 Nigeria needs a robust Health Management Information System to handle high disease burden

Nigeria is among a few countries that conceptualised a health management information system HMIS in the early 90s but implementation has been a challenge till date. Besides COVID-19, the country has a huge burden of communicable and non-com...

Morocco COVID-19 response: A fragile health system and the deteriorating situation

Learning from its European neighbors, Morocco imposed drastic measures from the initial stages of the COVID-19 outbreak to try to contain its spread. The strategy worked for a few months but the cases have surged after mid-June. In this sit...

COVID-19: Argentina’s health system inefficiencies exaggerate flaws of health information system

You can recover from a drop in the GDP, but you cant recover from death, was the straightforward mindset of Argentinas President Alberto Fernndez and defined the countrys response to COVID-19. The South American nation imposed a strict...

Videos

Latest News

FTSE 100 on course for monthly decline as virus fears rise

Londons FTSE 100 fell on Wednesday and was headed for its second monthly decline in six as growing economic uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as Brexit subdued risk appetite. The blue-chip FTSE 100 lost 0.6, led by travel and...

UK PM Johnson to speak on COVID-19 as anger mounts towards curbs

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will hold a news conference on COVID-19 on Wednesday as he grapples with a swiftly spreading second wave of the novel coronavirus outbreak and growing anger in his own party over restrictions imposed on ...

Germany confirms one more African swine fever case in wild boar

One more case of African swine fever ASF has been confirmed in a wild boar in the eastern German state of Brandenburg, the state government there said on Wednesday.The new discovery was outside the area where the first cases were found, it ...

Karabakh fighting enters 4th day, Armenia says no need for outside military help

Fighting between Azerbaijan and ethnic Armenian forces entered a fourth day on Wednesday in the biggest eruption of their decades-old conflict since a 1994 ceasefire. Azerbaijan and the ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh said there...

Give Feedback